Two weeks ago, I found out about the Illinois State Criterium Championships on the bikereg.com in Bloomington. Hmm, I’m checking out where it is, 120 miles southwest of Chicago, about 2.5 hours of driving. Not so bad, checking the weather, storms… I still have time to register, I thought, let’s wait we’ll see what the weather will be like. A few days before the race, the same storms, but I will register just in case 🙂
In the end, I decided to go. Whatever happens, happens. On the way there, storms with some cloud cover, not even a hint of sun. Around 8:30 I am getting to Bloomington, of course, a storm. Junior’s race is moved back about 30 minutes, I’m warming up a bit at the nearby covered parking. It stops raining, I have the opportunity to go a few times around the loop of the course, about 1.2 km: 8 turns, one uphill and a finish at a slight downhill right after 40 m from the last turn. Everything totally wet, sewer grates, lines and the whole street. I haven’t raced criteria with these conditions but I like new experiences :).
I thought about my tactics for the race. After the short uphill, there are 6 turns and between them, there’s 40-60m straight. I have to be in the top, maybe even first, I will have control of the group and it will be difficult to pass me. It seems to me to be the best solution for such a course. We are set to start, 28 people and I am in the first line. A short chat with Joseph Proszowski from Veloz, and we are good to go.
I started fast, I took the first turn in the first position, The second turn and a light uphill began, Joseph Proszowski from Veloz put the hammer down but I get on his wheel and I’m staying there, taking every turn very fast, feeling how my bike is about a hair from sliding out. Almost three laps on his wheel. There are a lot of jumps on the short uphill every lap but I stick around the top six each time. There were a lot of crashes in the back, maybe 6 in total. The whole race was wet and super slick. The last two laps get even faster and even more nerve-wracking. I am not able to enter into the turns with such speed as a few competitors before me, and I have to catch up after every turn. On the last lap I make my plan and make a jump on the uphill, I am the first. One turn, the second, the third- keep going, the fourth, I’m already thinking about the fifth when Brian Mitchell is passing me, I did not expect this, he enters the penultimate turn with a dizzying speed. I am in a corner but I am a couple of meters away. I already know that I lost, but I fight to the end, the last corner avoiding the wet manhole cover, full gas on the left equals me: Talius Chickering, we both throw bicycles and we do not know who is second and third. I have a podium! Happy without accidents, good job.
Remember to always have a plan, it will not always work, but it gives you much more of a chance to win.